As our lives change, so do our marital sexual relationships.The average married couple’s time spent in sexual intercourse adds up to a meager one weekend per year. This reminds us that during the remainder of the time married couples are interacting on other levels and in other ways. The soaring ecstasy of a peak sexual encounter can be matched but not surpassed by hundred other kinds of shared experiences.
As our lives change, so do our marital sexual relationships. Stress and difficulty can be painful processes and yet, stress and discomfort can also lead to personal growth. Our life’s structure change throughout our lives. We shall try to explore these changes as they relate to the corresponding stages in our lives. Unhappy sex is often rooted in the inability to work through conflicts in other marital relationships. Unsatisfactory sexual relations are a symptom of marital discord not the cause of it.
Between ages 22 to 28 many people explore the world and attempt to make a life structure for themselves. Many couples get married at this time to prove their adulthood. A great number of sexual conflicts stem around infertility, unwanted pregnancy or birth control concerns. Conflicts arise from ill communication and problems with performance anxiety.
Around 30 Crises and change causes us to reevaluate our lives and set new goals. Seldom do both partners reevaluate this transition period in the same manner. Many couples are married for five or six years and suddenly feel a need to solve problems that have been there all along. In a fairly stable marriage, couples don’t blame each other but tend to work out the problems within their marriage. If they remain together out of choice rather than fear, the marriage becomes even more stable than before. The couple is likely to establish roots and devote even more time to their jobs and family. On the other hand, some couples are more likely to go out exploring during this period. Each individual may find their sex life monotonous and begin looking for a younger more stimulating partner. The man may decide he wants more freedom. The woman may decide she needs to get out of the house and wants more support with domestic chores and the children. One person may want more money and comfort; the other partner may want to keep things the same.
Sexual conflict usually revolves around individual self esteem issues regarding weight gain or getting older. Many times this translates into "sex is boring". These conflicts may increase during pregnancy. Some women find themselves more responsive after having children, others less. Sex becomes less spontaneous when the children fill the daytime hours and sex becomes confined to the nighttime hours. Yet, many couples find marital sex better at 30 because of increased trust and self esteem. In second marriages, there is often a fear of repeating the mistakes of a first marriage. A man may marry a woman who possesses traits quite opposite that of his first wife and then become angry when the present wife does anything to remind him of her. Problems with children from previous marriages also make second marriages more difficult. Yet, second marriages are likely to be with someone more sexually compatible than one’s first spouse.
At 40 we look again at our lives and grieve for our lost youth and lost opportunities. We also realize how much of our lives are in front of us. Children are now adolescent. People are now reasonably affluent middle-class and reached financial success. At the same time one must deal with the loss of youth and accept certain things about one’s personality. Many women now enter the workforce if they haven’t before. Many women mature and become more assertive. Many men who have been striving for monetary success find the marriage empty after the kids leave home. Many men want to be nurtured and does not want his wife getting involved in a career. However, most couples find they can now share things with each other and give support to each other in new roles. Eventually marital satisfaction increases when the last child leaves the family. As the children become sexual adults, the couples in the 40’s now belong to the older generation.
Sexual conflict can increase as people grow older. Men’s erections develop slower and more direct stimulation is required. Sex drive seems less urgent and men are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, drugs, and exhaustion. Woman, on the other hand, now become more sexual and uninhibited. Menopause has little effect on sex drive. If the sexual relationship was a problem before, the frequency of intercourse may decline even more at this time. If a couple does not divorce during this transition period, it is less likely they will divorce later.
The older couple reaching 60 finds other tasks to contend with. People do change in profound ways as they get older. Most men who are 60 or 65 give up the reigns of power and move into a advisory capacity to make room for younger men. Retirement makes a major change in daily activities and also in self-esteem. The couples are available to each other throughout the day. If the woman is younger and still working, there is a change in the power structure of the relationship. Also more chronic and disabling illnesses increase at this time. One person may find him or her self caring for a sick partner.
Sexual conflict occurs in men at this age because they expect problems. This anxiety causes sexual performance problems. The man has a decreased need for orgasm at each sexual contact and the extra time required for him to develop an erection may cause his partner to question her attractiveness.
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